Namibia safari vacations
San rock art in Damaraland.
This amazing south-west Africa country combines the world’s best mass-wildlife watching, stunning desert scenery, masses of spectacular sand dunes which you can climb, sandboard down, quad bike up and balloon over in a fairly primitive environment, yet is supplied with life’s essentials (good beds and cold beer) at key points, and you have a truly superb exotic destination.
Then there are a couple of tranquil, attractive coastal oasis towns – Swakopmund and Luderitz – sun that shines just about everyday and 2, 000 kilometres of beaches – unused except by a few hardy surfers and 200, 000 seals. What’s not to like?
Well actually the San hunters who once wandered its bone-dry gravel plains and shifting sands called it ‘the land God made in anger’, while Portuguese sailors who were wrecked on the Skeleton Coast called it ‘the sands of hell’!
Kids of differing species go eyeball to eyeball in Etosha.
Experienced travelers agree that the richness and diversity of Namibia’s tourist offerings make it one of the top exotic holiday spots in the world, if not the best.
We at bugbog rank Namibia alongside Peru and Myanmar/Burma in our top three most colourful, interesting and fun vacations ever.
Primary targets are the fantastically wildlife-rich Etosha National Park, the staggeringly huge and beautifully pink dunes at Sossusvlei, the massed horizon to horizon yellow dunes of the Namib Desert and its cute oasis towns such as Swakopmund, the bleak, seal-stuffed shores of the Skeleton, ancient rock carvings in Damaraland and Fish River Canyon hikes.
In addition the prices are reasonable, the weather is sunny, tourists are relatively few, the pictures are unbeatable and safety concerns not too bad, though drivers should take special care!
The magnificent Sossusvlei dunes, the world’s biggest accessible sand pile! Dune 45 in Sossusvlei National Park, pictured, is one of the smaller but shapelier piles, probably around 160m high. The dune opposite 45 is 360m high.
***Etosha National Park. As far as number of wildlife you can see, this may be Africa’s greatest game park. More
***Namib Desert, a sensational sea of rolling dunes, with activities galore. More
***Sossusvlei. Totally mind-bending 400m high pink dunes. More
***Swakopmund, on the coast, is a pretty, relaxed town in old German style, with plenty of activities on offer. More
**Skeleton Coast, bleak, blasted and eery with salt roads, seals and sand forever make this worth a look-see. More
**Twyfelfontein/Damaraland provides high quality 2, 000 year old San rock art and spectacular scenery. More
*Caprivi, a narrow strip of scenic riverland sandwiched between Angola, Zambia and Botswana, with four excellent but rarely visited game parks and various fishing and river-adventure facilities. An ideal stopover for overland explorers to/from Botswana and Zimbabwe, it’s a 3 hour drive to Victoria Falls from Katima.
*Opuwo area, the Kaokoland is home to the Himba tribe people who still wear red ochre body-paint and traditional dress. Himba settlements can be visited with a guide; do this with sensitivity but do not expect culture without payment.
*Kalahari desert near Mariental, not quite as exciting as it sounds, but provides good hiking and bird watching opportunities, as well as photogenic quivertrees near Keetmanshoop.
**Luderitz, a bizarre Bavarian (German) village stuck on a barren coast, it’s a long drive south but the endless beach supports seals, penguins, flamingoes and ostriches.
Fish River Canyon
***Fish River Canyon, the world’s second largest after America’s Grand Canyon, attracts keen hikers.
Hobas, at the north end, is the best starting point with masses of camp sites, stunning viewpoints and good short walks. A challenging, spectacular 85 km four-day trail is one of Africa’s toughest, but a fitness test is required to get permission! Reward yourself at *Ai-Ais hot springs resort afterwards.
**Orange River, on the border with South Africa is a terrific rafting spot.
Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, has a good climate but is a charmless hodgepodge of car-dominated, modern mall culture, leavened with a frisson of potential muggery. You may have no choice so ***Joe’s Beer House is a superb place to pass some time.
Some zebra herds number in the thousands and they’re not concerned about cars nor human timekeeping!
Namibia Wildlife Safaris: there are many little game parks around the country but Etosha is so superb others are hardly worth the cost unless you can get to see big cats up close. See our Etosha safari guide.
Quad Biking and Sand Boarding in Namib Desert: not exactly eco-friendly but OK if you/your guide uses fixed routes and are very exciting. Sandboarding can be lie down or stand up styles, but needs very dry dunes.
Swakopmund, on the edge of the Namib Desert is adrenalin activity central in this country.
Hiking: Waterburg Plateau, Naukluft Mountains and Damaraland have some good walks but Fish River Canyon is the place for serious hiking.
Short dune hikes all over the Namib Desert are a good way to burn off some energy and get tranquilised.
Scenic Drives: the west side of the country provides endless stunning roadscapes. 4WD is unnecessary though much of the time you may be on gravel roads. The best cruise has to be the 75km drive down the Sossusvlei valley with massive dunes on each side.
Ballooning and flying: fantastic views especially over Sossusvlei dunes, but expensive of course (and don’t expect ballooning to be quiet! ).
Kayaking: Walvis Bay, near Swakopmund is favoured for sea kayaking, with plenty of birdlife, including flamingoes and perhaps seals or dolphins.
Horse riding: many private lodge/farms offer guided rides.
The Desert Express, an overnight train from Windhoek to Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast. This romantic throwback to the fifties is a first-class sleeper that takes 22 stately hours to get to the coast. It’s very classy, comfortable and includes brief safari and dune stops en route. And very expensive. Thousands of dollars return!
Best season for a Namibia Safari: May-October (winter, up to 25C daytime, down to 0C possible at night)
Worst: November- March with excessive heat of 35C+. Some rain, though not much, makes wildlife watching more difficult as animals are not so dependent on waterholes.
South African school holidays as well as Namibian ones can stuff up accommodation availability. African school holidays: Most of May, late August – early September, early December to about 20 January.